Kenseth: No need for reputation repair after Logano run-in

After having most of the short NASCAR offseason to ruminate on his late-2015 suspension and the contentious series of events that led to it, Matt Kenseth says he doesn’t feel that his reputation needs any repair work.

Kenseth, whom NASCAR suspended for back-to-back races for deliberately wrecking Joey Logano last fall at Martinsville Speedway, returned for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But he saw a mostly stellar season end on a sour note when NASCAR benched him for retaliating in egregious fashion for Logano wrecking him two weeks prior at Kansas Speedway.

As a result of the bump from Logano at Kansas, Kenseth and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team missed out on what turned out to be their best opportunity to advance to the next round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

"I’ve had more fan support in the last three months than I’ve had in my entire life," Kenseth said Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame during the opening day of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. "It has been unbelievable support in the garage, from fans, even my sponsors, the shop. I’ve had more support than I ever have. It’s not a popularity contest. It’s about winning.

I don’t particularly like it, but the race fans like it, and they like to watch it, and that’s how racing’s been ever since I started watching NASCAR, right? You wreck me, you’re going to get wrecked back.

Matt Kenseth

"I feel like have a lot of respect from within our organization from my teammates, and I feel like I’ve got a lot of respect from a lot of people in the garage. I’m not going to change who I am. I’m just going to try do my business and go from there. Some people are going to like it, and some people aren’t."

Asked if he believes most people felt he did the right thing by wrecking Logano at Martinsville when he was multiple laps down and Logano was the leader, Kenseth conceded that "it depends on who you ask."

"It’s been an interesting offseason," the 2003 Sprint Cup champion added. "I’ve had more feedback, I’ve had more fans approach me this offseason than I’ve ever had in my entire life, and just random places everywhere you go. And I haven’t a guy want to hit me yet. I mean, race fans like that stuff. They really do.

"I don’t particularly like it, but the race fans like it, and they like to watch it, and that’s how racing’s been ever since I started watching NASCAR, right? You wreck me, you’re going to get wrecked back. I think a lot of the fans — especially old-school fans — probably like to see some of that everybody not liking each other so much."

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Shortly after his suspension, Kenseth was summoned in for a closed-door meeting with NASCAR chairman Brian France, who was vocal in his disdain for the veteran driver’s actions. But Kenseth continues to stand by his unapologetic statements following last year’s incident.

"I think the way all the circumstances went, I think it was something that unfortunately needed to be done," Kenseth said. "Obviously if I had known I was going to get suspended, I’d figure out how to do it differently and be a little sneakier about it. You always hope it never comes to that and you can work things out and get the best of people and move on. But sometimes also you get to a point, especially in this day and age and with these (Chase) formats, you can’t get run over and taken out of the race, because everybody’s watching it, and they’ll be like, ‘OK, if you run him over, he’s not going to do anything.’

"I don’t know. It’s kind of a balancing act. You hate to be in that spot. You hate to ever do anything like that. I wish none of it had ever happened, to be honest with you. I wish with 10 to go at Kansas he would have figured out how to pass me without running into me . . . But obviously you can’t go back. You’ve just got to put it behind you and move forward."

Moving forward doesn’t necessarily mean getting with Logano during next month’s Daytona Speedweeks to ensure all is OK between the two, however. At the same time, Kenseth wouldn’t be opposed to clearing the air.

"NASCAR got us together at Homestead and we talked a little bit," Kenseth said, referring to the weekend of the 2015 finale. "We spoke briefly in Vegas (at the post-season Champion’s Week) a couple times. I’m always willing to talk. I think he really is, too.

"Honestly, I’d never had a problem with Joey until that. We’ve always raced really well together, and I’ve always had a lot of respect for him, and I feel like he’d always treated me with a lot of respect on the racetrack before this all went down. So it’s probably just the best-case scenario for everybody to just put it behind us and move on and go back to racing each other how we used to race other."